Parkinson's sufferer Robin Buttery is to take on one of the world's toughest rows to raise thousands of pounds for charity and support vital treatment research.
The De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) member of staff is to row across the Indian Ocean despite being diagnosed with young onset of Parkinson's disease (YOPD), a long-term degenerative disorder.
Robin, who works as a technical instructor for furniture/timber product design, is due to set off on the sponsored ocean crossing with three crew members today (Thursday).
The huge mental and physical challenge will see the group rowing 3,600 nautical miles from Western Australia to Mauritius on board a vessel that is just 30ft by 6ft.
The crew of four will row for 24 hours each day, in two-hour intervals with two-hour breaks. They are expected to be at sea for about 65 days.
They will be put through their paces as they will be unsupported and at the mercy of the elements and the vast open ocean. They face many dangers and discomforts such as stormy weather, huge waves, blisters, seasickness, whales and sharks, sunburn, sleep deprivation and exhaustion.
The team will survive on a freeze-dried food and a desalinator will turn seawater into drinking water.
Robin will also support vital research as scientists will use an on-board camera to better understand how his metabolic, cardiovascular and neuro-muscular system cope and adapt to prolonged endurance activity. It is hoped this could lead to a significant breakthrough in the way Parkinson's is assessed and treated.
Robin, who lives in Leicester with his family, said the ocean crossing would be the challenge of a lifetime to raise money, as well as awareness.
He has been busy training by going to the gym and putting his skills to the test on his rowing machine at home. The team has also done a training row from Guernsey to Southampton.
Robin, who admits he's not an adventurer and only a novice rower, said: "I have to take a lot of drugs, but I try to stay positive and find that exercise helps me a lot.
"I also want to show others that life does not stop after diagnosis. Whatever life throws at you, nothing should hold you back.
"Researchers will be examining how my body reacts when things get ugly. I'll definitely be out my comfort zone, but I want to try to improve things through research to help us all."
He added: "Everyone has been really encouraging and I’m really looking forward to it."
All money raised will be split between Parkinson's UK; the Clear Trust, which aims to encourage young people with neurological disorders to participate in exercise; and RAFT, a medical research charity dedicated to improving the lives of adults and children who have suffered physical trauma.
Parkinson's disease is caused by a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain with symptoms including the slowing down of bodily movements over time.
Robin was diagnosed in June 2015, just before his 44th birthday, after he noticed he had a sore knee and couldn't walk as quickly as he used to.
He will be joined on his journey by skipper Billy Taylor and fellow rowers Barry Hayes and James Plumley.
The crew hope to row their way into the record books by becoming the fastest four-man crew to row the Indian Ocean. The current record stands at 71 days and to date, less than 50 people in the world have successfully rowed the Indian Ocean.
Visit the crew's website to sponsor them, or watch them live as they make their way across the Indian Ocean.
Schoolchildren across the UK will also be watching the live-stream to learn about subjects such as geography, oceanography and marine conservation.
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Posted on Thursday 14th June 2018